Anyone living in southwestern Michigan or Indiana continues to suffer through one of the hottest and driest periods in the last century. Needless to say, this was not an auspicious year to start a spruce forest in Berrien County. In general the smallest seedlings have survived (so far), but even the strongest soldiers from the County Conservation District tree sale that managed to produce “candles” and then new needles have succumbed to days of hot sun, dry winds and rare rainfall. The weeds we banished from this acre are showing their vigor and retaking the field despite the arid conditions, so the only choice is to hook up the bush hog and try again next year.
In retrospect the strategy to mulch the seedlings with VisPore tree mats, a porous and biodegradable black fabric for weed control, may have compounded the poor weather conditions. The sandy loam soil in this part of the Bluecircle dries quickly. The same mulch appears to be working well in plantings of walnut and established pine, but we will rely on mowing to manage weeds in the rest of this year’s seedlings.